Don't let Dr. Internet make you a cyberchondriac - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Don't let Dr. Internet make you a cyberchondriac

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NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) -

Ask the Internet a question and it provides you with an answer -- a lot of answers actually, but not all of them correct ones.

"There's been times I've gone to Google," one woman told Fox 5, "just had a little cough, maybe a little scratch, and all of a sudden I thought I was pregnant."

When the question relates to your health, a wrong answer can leave the Googler panicky and M.D.s like Dr. Michael Frank unnecessarily busy.

"[A lot of patients] have all already looked up their symptoms, their possible illnesses," Dr. Frank said. "They have a diagnosis and a treatment plan before they sit down and get themselves comfortable [in my exam room]."

We call this cyberchondria. According to psychologist Dr. Jeff Gardere, cyberchondriacs often moonlight as hypochondriacs.

"People who are most susceptible are the ones who spend too much time on the Internet, have too much time on their hands but also tend to have some degree of hypochondria," Dr. Jeff said.

But even if you are a more rational patient, the wrong blog or message board can leave you diagnosing a scratchy throat, a slight temperature and an aching stomach as some never-before-seen hybrid of scurvy, scarlet fever and the black lung.

"A headache?" Dr. Frank said. "Then the patient comes in convinced they have a brain tumor. Most patients with headaches don't have brain tumors."

Worrying, online or off, often leads to more worrying, so Dr. Jeff and Dr. Frank do recommend Dr. Internet, but only in moderation.

"Some [patients] come in with the diagnosis very well thought out and correct," Dr. Frank said.

"It's not gospel," Dr. Jeff said. "Always check with your family physician."

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